I’ve never seen a supplement that splits so many opinions as much as pre workout.
Some people think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
Others think it’s ineffective and a waste of time.
Well, if you’re in the latter camp, then perhaps you’re not taking it properly.
Should You Cycle Off Pre Workout?
Since most pre workouts are high in caffeine, you quickly build a tolerance to it. This will make it feel less effective, and therefore you should cycle pre workout to reset your tolerance.
In this article, we’re going to cover which pre workouts you should cycle, how often you should cycle it, and much, much more.
Why You Should Cycle Off Pre Workout
Pre Workout is Usually High in Caffeine
Many pre workouts include caffeine as a main ingredient. The reason being caffeine is safe, cheap, and effective.
It can help you focus, give you more energy, and even help you burn fat.
But caffeine is a drug.
And like all drugs, you can build a tolerance to it.
According to Wikipedia:
Drug tolerance is a pharmacological concept describing subjects’ reduced reaction to a drug following its repeated use. Increasing its dosage may re-amplify the drug’s effects; however, this may accelerate tolerance, further reducing the drug’s effects.
In simple terms, the more you use a drug, the less effects you notice from it.
Think of the time you had your first coffee.
Did you feel more wired than you do when drinking now?
Most likely yes.
And this happens because of a drug tolerance to caffeine.
Well, since many pre workouts are high in caffeine, the same logic applies here.
(Some pre workouts have 3x the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee!)
So when you continuously take a pre workout that contains caffeine, you’ll need to take more of it to feel the effects.
But of course, taking more of it can be dangerous as it also means you’ll be taking more of the other ingredients too, which may not be as safe as caffeine.
So, cycling pre workout cycling is a great way to reset your caffeine tolerance so that your pre workout is as safe and effective as possible.
Pre Workout Can Be Expensive
Many of the top brands of pre workout are very expensive.
We’re talking around $2.50 a serving.
So if you’re working out a conservative 4 times a week, you can easily spend 40 bucks just on pre workout!
While most pre workouts do help, there are better things to be spending $40 on, such as healthy, whole foods.
So, by cycling pre workout, not only are you taking it as safely and effectively as possible, but you’re also saving some dollaz in the process.
A real win-win.
How Often Should You Cycle Pre Workout?
This is a tough one to answer for a couple of reasons:
- Everyone’s tolerance to caffeine is different
- Different pre workouts have different amounts of caffeine
Let’s explore these in a bit more detail.
Why Your Tolerance To Caffeine Matters
At a biological level, every single one of us is unique.
So, each of our bodies process caffeine differently.
Some of us may get wired just off the smell of coffee.
Some of us may need a gallon of the stuff to feel anything.
Depending on how your body processes caffeine, you may have to cycle it less or more often.
Those with a lower caffeine tolerance will have to cycle it less often, as it will take a lot more caffeine to build up a tolerance.
Whereas those with a higher caffeine tolerance will have to cycle it more often to feel the effects.
Why The Amount Of Caffeine In Your Pre Workout Matters
There’s no such thing as a “standard pre workout”.
Every pre workout has different ingredients at different dosages.
Some have as “little” as 100mg of caffeine per serving and others have a whopping 400mg per serving.
Generally speaking, the more caffeine you have, the faster you build a tolerance to it.
So, if you’re taking a pre workout with say 400mg of caffeine, you’ll build a tolerance super quick.
And the faster you build a tolerance to it, the more often you need to cycle.
It works the other way too – the less caffeine you have, the longer it takes for you to build a tolerance to it.
So, if you’re taking a pre workout with say 100mg of caffeine, it could take a while for you to build a tolerance to it. And thus you could cycle it less often.
Ultimately, there isn’t a set amount of time you should wait before cycling pre workout.
Like with many supplements, listening to your body is key.
If you’ve been taken pre workout for 2 months and it suddenly feels less effective?
Well, that’s your body telling you it’s a good idea to take a break.
If you’ve been taken pre workout for 6 months and it still feels as effective as the first time?
Then crack on my friend.
How Long To Cycle Off Pre Workout
Okay. You’ve finally decided to cycle your pre workout.
But how long should you stop taking it for?
Unfortunately, it’s another tough one to answer.
When you stop taking pre workout, your tolerance to caffeine will start to decrease. Which is exactly what we want.
The rate at which your tolerance decreases depends on your individual biology.
Some people will lose their tolerance quickly, whereas others will take longer.
But there’s a bit of a paradox here – you won’t know how much your tolerance has dropped until you next try caffeine.
In other words, the only way to check the effectiveness of pre workout after cycling off it is to try it again!
So ultimately, you’ll need to do some experimentation here.
The first time you cycle off pre workout, give it a month before you try it again.
If it feels effective? Great! You waited long enough.
If not? Looks like you should probably wait longer.
Should You Cycle Off Caffeine-Free Pre Workout?
Some may be thinking:
Well, if it’s the caffeine that I’m tolerant too, do I need to cycle caffeine-free pre workout?
That’s a great question.
And the answer is: it depends.
If the last time you had caffeine-free pre workout was as good as the first time, then there’s no reason why you’d need to cycle it.
However, if it’s starting to feel less effective, that’s your body telling you it’s a good time to take a break.
What Happens If You Don’t Cycle Pre Workout?
If you don’t cycle pre workout, then there are 3 possible situations.
Situation 1: The pre workout no longer feels effective. You do nothing.
Situation 2: The pre workout no longer feels effective. You increase the dosage.
Situation 3: The pre workout still feels effective as when you first took it. You do nothing.
Breaking these down further, with situation 1, you end up wasting your money.
With situation 2, you could be putting your health at risk as you don’t know what other ingredients you’re consuming in large amounts.
With situation 3, you’re making a sensible decision. You’ve listened to your body and are reaping the rewards.
So, the outcome of not cycling pre workout depends on which situation you find yourself in.
Can You Have Withdrawals From Pre Workout?
If you’re going from 400mg of caffeine per day to 0mg, you may experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms, such as:
Whereas if you take caffeine-free pre workout, you’re less likely to experience withdrawals.
And again, your unique biology comes into play. Some of us are more prone to withdrawals than others.
Can You Drink Coffee On Your Pre Workout Off Cycle?
If your pre workout contains caffeine, then it’s a big no from me.
The reason being, you’re still consuming a decent amount of caffeine when drinking coffee, so your tolerance won’t drop.
And if your tolerance isn’t going down, then what are you cycling for?
Those who are taking caffeine-free pre workout shouldn’t have an issue with drinking coffee during the off cycle, as you won’t have a caffeine tolerance from the pre workout anyways.
Wrapping things up, pre workout can be an effective supplement to improve your gym sessions.
But since most pre workouts contain caffeine, it’s sensible to cycle it if it’s starting to feel less effective.
By cycling pre workout, you’re reducing your tolerance to it as well as some saving some cash. So, there’s no real downside to it.
Unfortunately, there’s no set answer as to how often and how long you should cycle pre workout for. With the reason being, we’re all unique.
So, the key takeaway message from the article is: Listen to what your body is telling you.
Hope this helped!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.